Time to evolve, time to look within
April 8, 2020
Muscat closed from April 10 to 22
April 8, 2020

Strengthen family bonds

By Hubert Vaz

The current coronavirus pandemic has brought forth advantages and disadvantages in relationships – family relations, work relations, friendly relations and societal relations. And it’s time to reshuffle our priorities says Dr Amira al Raidan, head of Mental Health Department, Department of Non-Communicable Diseases, Ministry of Health.

“The common disadvantage in all relationships is the aspect of being isolated from physical communication while the bright side of the crisis is the opportunity that everyone has got to re-shuffle their priorities in relationships, which most people don’t realise as they are pre-occupied with work/social commitments,” says Dr Amira who is also senior medical officer-Addiction unit – Al Massarah Mental Hospital.

Dr Amira stresses that the strongest relationship that must be strengthened is the family-bond where the parents have to work out their own conflicts – if they exist – and then set in harmony their decisions that is related to their children’s life. At the same time, theyneed to get children’s opinions on their future so that the feel they are responsible to achieve that goals.

“We can say that parents are ready to set number of goals and activities and share them with their children and involve in executing them. Also, the parents must design specific routines for their children that involve regular follow-ups of online study, time for re-creational activities, time for rituals and time to discuss their children thoughts and feelings. In order to ensure  sustained family-bonds, parents must continuously supervise those routines and be part of it.

As regards, explaining the current situation to minor children at home, Dr Amira suggests that parents need to act as role-models in taking the health precautions and then teach their children according to their age group.

Minor children will understand the situation better if it is presented in an exiting manner without threatening or scaring them.

For instance, parents use story-telling techniques to make children understand the importanc eof hygiene or simulated play to demonstrate the precautions needed by focussing on the positive outcomes, she said, adding that motivational competitons among siblings can also be helpful for them to learn healthy habits and understand the risks involved.

Social distancing  at home

Social distancing currently refers to staying at least two metres away from each other. At home, this includes maintaining precautions of proper hand wash hygiene, discarding garbage from home, minimising face touching or hand shaking, avoiding close contact with sick persons, etc. 

It is important to also avoid family gatherings, social gatherings or out-door sport activities, even going to health clubs. Avoid unnecessary shopping as long as you can use the on-line order system. Spare time for doing rituals and reading useful books as routines keep one engaged.

On can use phone applications, laptops to have fun-time activites at home, like watching comedy movies/playing video games for a specific period of time. Also, home activities like walking in the compound, climbing stairs, doing muscle strengthening exercises, meditation and yoga will also boost one’s inner positivity, Dr Amira asserts.

She, however, cautions, that if both parents are sick, then they definitely must be separated from children and isolated in different rooms, besides visiting the nearest health center for screening and medication.

“There are two possible scenarios – if they test negative, they still need to isolate themselves and have minimum contact with other family members, including avoidance of eating meals together until they recover fully from the common cold. Unaffected family members can look after small children till then.

Effect of the pandemic on students

Definitely, it will be hard for students to deal with distant family relations and feeling home-sick as well as it will have an impact on their study readiness and achievements. The main mental problems that might come across includes stress, anxiety and depression because students who are away from their countries feel insecure under the influence of this crisis and have fear of the unknown end of this crisis, too, Dr Amira said.

Connection with the community

Many governmental and private mental health centres have started initiatives like psychological support groups on social media, either as a hotline or discussion groups or live videos where the psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers discuss common mental concerns. For example, stress-anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression disorder, obsession compulsive disorder, etc are being discussed with large number of participants to relieve their concerns of fear and to encourage positive well-being in the community.

With the advantage of technology, distances hav reduced and people can be in touch with distant family members or even friends via various modes of contact. Also, there are social media influencers who can play a part to spread  positive vibes and maintain a good connection among followers. Not forgetting to mention, even phone applications, including games, have a beneficiary influence in keeping people connected together.

My advice for everyone: Stay home, stay safe!

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